I think we’ve been getting discernment all wrong.
In your mind is discernment synonymous with suspicion or more like a treasure hunter who tears up an island because he knows that it’s there? I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the foundation of discernment isn’t suspicion but hope.
Consider the early church. In Acts 11 we read of how the good news of Jesus made impact in the Gentile hub of Antioch. It was an unprecedented thing. A few no-name followers of Jesus took the gospel to people with no foundation of belief (no Jewish background) and it created such a stir that they had to develop a new class of people; namely, Christians. It was here that they were first called Christians because this was the first time that Jew and Gentile were together in the same church. It blew up their worldview. It used to be Jew/Gentile. Now it’s something totally different.
The church in Jerusalem was a bit unsettled by this. Their whole way of viewing the world was through that Jew/Gentile lens. If a Gentile wanted to become a follower of God, that was cool and they’d welcome it so long as they became as the Jews. But this is something altogether different. This isn’t making Gentiles into Jews. This is making Jews and Gentiles into something totally different. And so they needed to check this thing out that God was doing. Is it legit? They knew they needed to be discerning and wise about this thing.
Here is my question for you. What kind of person do you send in order to figure this thing out? What kind of “discernment ministry” do you task with trying to see if it really is God at work here? Do you pick the inflexible and no-nonsense guy who sees everything in black and white? Isn’t that what it means to have the gift of discernment? Isn’t discernment the ability to find the land-mines and untruths and slippery slopes in a fellas argument?
So why’d they send Barnabas?
Barnabas is an encourager. That’s a guy who can find a rose in a field of land-mines. Not a guy who can find a land-mine in a field of roses.
I’ll tell you why they sent Barnabas. They sent Barnabas because the foundation of Christian discernment is hope and not suspicion. Love rejoices at the truth. You know what that means? It means that when you go on a fact finding mission you’re looking for truth. And when you find it, even if just in a spark, you rejoice.
I’m talking about foundations here. Starting points. I’m convinced that we’ve gotten this wrong and because of it the gift of discernment has now become synonymous with the “gift” of being a jerk. True discernment will spot error. And it’ll call error out. But that’s not the intention of the search.
Think of it this way. Hope-fueled discernment is like a guy with a metal detector out in a field because he has heard reports of a buried treasure. He’s profoundly hopeful. Not skeptical. He wants to find the treasure. And so he keeps digging. All those places where he checked and didn’t find the treasure he is going to call them out. He’ll put flags there so people know treasure isn’t to be found here. Each “miss” is marked with sorrow but tinged with hope. So he keeps on swinging that detector in the hopes of finding treasure.
That’s quite different than the guy who has heard a report of a treasure in a field but he wants to prove all the idiots wrong. He’s skeptical that it’s there. For him, every swing and miss is further evidence that there is no treasure here. He gives up the search must faster than the guy who is hope-fueled. He’ll miss the treasure because he won’t bother digging at the faintest of pings. He knows it isn’t there anyways.
Discernment is vital. Which is why we cannot allow it to be shipwrecked by the dour and inflexible among us. Discernment isn’t the gift which keeps faith-filled and hope-fueled people in check. Discernment belong to such. Let’s not rend what God has united.
May hope-fueled discernment rise up among us.
This article originally appeared here.